My Perfect Christmas is Lots of “Me Time”

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Tomorrow I am going to a family Christmas party. I would prefer to stay home in my jammies drinking hot cocoa or coffee, watching Netflix with my fur babies, but I can’t, its my hubby’s family. He is excited about going so somehow I will have to put on my party face and at least act like I enjoy being there. Now don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with his family. They are a nice group of people. It’s just that I’m an introvert and the thought of making small talk with people I barely know… If you’re an introvert, you know what I mean.

Hubby’s sister is a classic extrovert. She loves entertaining and Christmas is her favorite holiday. She goes all out in the decorating and outdoor Christmas lights department. Santa will even stop by bringing gifts for her grandkids. Maybe if I had grandkids I would make more of an effort to get in to the “holiday spirit.” I do think Christmas is for kids. They definitely appreciate the festivities, especially ripping open their presents.

When I was young, I liked Christmas, except those times my mother got drunk and started a huge fight with my dad because he didn’t get her a more expensive gift. When I became a mom, I celebrated Christmas. I wanted my son to have good memories but I also wasn’t about to go in to debt buying over priced toys. I don’t know how or why people do that today. Toys are now electronic gadgets that can cost up to a weeks worth of pay. How crazy is that? Christmas is too commercialized and if you don’t participate, you’re called a Scrooge. I don’t like feeling pressured to do anything and I definitely don’t follow the crowd. That’s another reason I prefer to stay home. I don’t have to explain myself.

Luckily, my son understands and appreciates having one less obligation. (There is only so much time in the day and trying to please everyone is exhausting). He spends Christmas with his dad and stepmom and their family. We see each other throughout the year and give gifts when we feel like it. Not spending time together in December is no big deal.

So tomorrow I will go to the party. I will practice being present. I will listen and observe what’s going on around me. And I will be grateful for all the blessings in my life.

If you’re an introvert and are looking for ideas to survive the holidays, this article has some good tips.

 

Namaste,

ingebird

 

Happy Festivus!

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I’ve worked at least a dozen Christmas Eve’s serving food to customers who either had no where else to go or were on vacation. Since Christmas was not a big deal to me, I always volunteered to work, so someone else could be home with family or friends.

Growing up with an alcoholic mother made the holidays unpredictable. Sometimes they were amusing, like the year she took pictures of the indoor plant, thinking it was the Christmas tree; other times she was pissed off my dad didn’t buy her a better gift. If we got lucky we spent Christmas Eve at my aunt’s house and I got to play with my cousins and see my grandma.

When I grew up and lived on my own, I got invited to Christmas dinner at a friend’s house. I really didn’t want to go but went anyway so I wouldn’t seem rude. When I started working as a waitress in diners that stayed open Christmas Eve, I had an excuse. I had to work! The last restaurant I worked at was six years ago and it was packed with families who chose to eat out instead of mom (Admit it. You know she did all the work) working all day to cook a meal that would be eaten in thirty minutes. There were also no dirty dishes to wash.

Along with those families, a few individuals would sit at the counter and sulk. These were the ones who didn’t get an “invite” to someone’s home. They felt cheated. They went on and on how miserable they were. (I am not writing about those who are depressed enough to contemplate suicide. I’m well aware the suicide rate goes up in December. The individuals I’m writing about are sour pusses all year. I know because I served them food).

After years of observation, I’ve come to the conclusion that we (or at least some of us) make too big a deal out of this holiday. If you celebrate Christmas because it’s considered the birthday of Christ, that’s one thing. Of course it’s an important holiday to Christians. But if one is sulking because one isn’t invited to someone’s house, maybe they should examine their behavior. Instead of feeling sorry for themselves maybe they could volunteer to spend time with someone who can’t go anywhere else, like those stuck in a hospital or convalescent home. How about serving food at a soup kitchen? There are oodles of people who would enjoy going to a coffee shop or diner by themselves but can’t because they are too sick or too feeble, or they don’t have money to spend on basic needs you and I take for granted. How many homeless sleep in shelters (if they’re lucky to find one with a vacant bed) or sleep outdoors on Christmas Eve? They have good reason to feel bad. But you know– they don’t. They are grateful to be alive. I know because some of the customers I served on those nights were homeless. It seems the ones who have the least are the ones who are most grateful.

I know I have everything I need or want. I am fortunate to have a comfortable place to live and plenty of food to eat. Many of the ones I heard complaining over the years have a home; a job and food as well. What they could use is an attitude adjustment. Instead of complaining, maybe they could laugh at themselves. We humans tend to take things too seriously. So what, they didn’t get an invite. Maybe they could learn to be happy with their own company instead of looking for happiness from someone else.

If you’re waiting for someone or something to make you happy, forget it. The Buddha said:

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This year I will stay home with my pets. Hubby has to work. He works every Christmas Eve and day. I plan to watch funny movies; do some reading and just enjoy the day. I might even stay in my pajamas.

A friend sent me this old clip from a Seinfeld episode. It’s about celebrating Festivus. I think it’s hilarious. I hope you enjoy it too.

Happy Festivus!

ingebird

Religion vs. Religion

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Several years ago I worked as a waitress in a local coffee shop (the old school kind which actually served food). One afternoon my coworker asked me if she could leave for an hour so she could go to afternoon mass at the church down the street. I said “sure” since there were only a few customers in the restaurant. As soon as she left, a  female sitting at the counter snidely remarked, “Catholics aren’t real Christians.” Getting into a religious debate with this woman probably wasn’t in my best interest so I decided to keep my mouth shut.

Back then, I hadn’t study Buddhism yet and my experience with anything spiritual was limited, although I have given her words more thought over the past few months and think her attitude (belief) is exactly why I stay away from organized religion, especially what is considered mainstream in America. Too many people with fundamental religious beliefs aren’t willing to accept there are other religious and spiritual points of view. None is right or wrong, only different. There is no religious superiority over another, but there are people who feel superior in general and use religion to justify their bad behavior.

An extreme example is the self-proclaimed Islamic (religious) group, ISIS. Their members believe their God instructs them to kill anyone who doesn’t believe their dogma. Their mantra is, “Its God’s will.” (Actually, its something different but similar. I choose to paraphrase their words). This group is at the very least a cult, like the Manson followers — on steroids. Their whole dogma is seeped in hate, something none of the major religions I studied in college, teach. I don’t know exactly why anyone would join such a group, no matter how loving and supportive they may seem in the beginning. Then again, I’ve never been a “joiner” of anything. I ask too many questions. That’s why Buddhism is a good fit for me.

ISIS is the extreme but there are individuals who base their hatred on verses in other holy books who can be just as dangerous, albeit on a smaller scale. Religious wars have been around since forever. You would think we have evolved since then but I guess not. The other day I heard a Jesuit priest tell a reporter,” All religious books should come with a warning label, much like the ones found on a pack of cigarettes.” If you think about it, it’s true. They all seem to contain words hazardous to our health. The Christian bible has so many different versions, how do we know which one is correct? I say it’s the one we probably feel most comfortable with and reflects our own thinking. If someone fears homosexuals (as an example) he or she will follow a Christian belief that reinforces that fear (belief). If someone is more open to other lifestyles they may follow Unitarian teachings.

Lately, what I find odd (and disappointing) is there seems to be a rift developing between religions. Or it could seem that way because the news media reports it so much. It’s especially noticeable this time of year when (I thought) we consider ourselves more charitable. The fight is over political correctness.

A week ago, one parent successfully stopped a field trip to see Santa during school hours. She wanted a separation between Church and State. I didn’t know Santa represented any church, in fact I knew a Christian who thought Santa should be banned altogether because he was too “secular.” Anyway this woman’s actions started yet another religious debate.

When I was a kid in the sixties, we celebrated Christmas at school. One year my classmate, who was Jewish did a report in front of the class about his religion and what it meant to him. It was a great learning experience. What we seem to be missing now a days are the opportunities for more learning experiences. Instead of separating ourselves and closing our ears and minds, we could embrace our differences and learn from each other. It’s really a shame when we allow our egos to get the best of us. Our ego is the one who says we should fear anything or anyone who seems different.

Hopefully this fear “of the other” is a passing phase. Maybe its part of our spiritual growth as a nation. God knows, none of these religions, spiritual beliefs and non-religious beliefs are going away soon. I hope we keep talking and yes, arguing because that’s how we will figure this stuff out.

Namaste,

ingebird

Tis the Season

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There are thirteen days left until Christmas. It’s Saturday and I’m betting the malls are packed with shoppers. I’m sitting home hanging out with my pets, reading and writing this post.

I was never attracted to organized religion because there are too many “rules.” So Christmas for me has nothing to do with a Christian holiday. Buddhist philosophy (I don’t see it as a religion) appeals to me because I can ask questions and get satisfactory answers. Buddhism helps me relate to others in the here and now. I’m not all that interested in finding out what happens after I die. Most traditional religions spend a lot of time explaining the afterlife, and I just want to get through this life without causing too much damage and hopefully leave the world a better place.

Sometimes amusing news stories pop up this time of year claiming there is a war on Christmas, although I haven’t met any Christians who feel this way. Remember the “Starbucks Christmas cup” controversy a few weeks ago? Donald Trump even got in on that craziness.

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Last year Christians (supposedly) got mad at store owners for wishing customers a Happy Holiday instead of Merry Christmas. Of course, that whole “fight” could have been made up by some guy in a newsroom hoping to boost ratings. I frankly don’t care what someone greets me with; Merry Christmas, Happy Holiday, Have a nice day. Its all the same to me. And I don’t think anyone else really cares either. Its just being polite.

Even though I’m not Christian, I still celebrate Christmas in my own way, with my own traditions. I enjoy watching old holiday movies, treating myself to baked goods and driving to neighborhoods decorated with festive lights. Hubby and I don’t exchange gifts. We have everything we need or want. My son is grown and spends Christmas with his dad and stepmom. He’s relieved I don’t expect him to be home with me.

We don’t have a Christmas tree because the cats will think its their personal perch and I’d spend my day picking up broken ornaments off the floor. There are a few vintage porcelain Christmas trees sitting on a shelf, alongside a small bust of Buddha in my living room and the wreath hanging on the front door is made from objects left over from past holidays.

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Hubby and I will treat ourselves with a homemade dessert from the local bakery. That is our gift to ourselves. Since we stopped eating junk foods, we’ve learned to appreciate baked goods and save them for special occasions.

I wish you and your loved ones a safe, happy and healthy holiday.

Namaste,

ingebird